UPDATED: Once focused solely on Democrat Kay Hagan, Republican Thom Tillis is shifting strategies and beginning to attack his primary GOP rival.
A Tillis campaign mailer sent this week hit Greg Brannon for not paying his 2013 property taxes on time. “Senate candidate Greg Brannon has failed to pay his own taxes,” it reads next to a darkened image of Brannon. “How can he be a voice for North Carolina taxpayers?”
The reverse side touts Tillis as a “tax reformer” and says he’s the “only candidate with a proven record lowering taxes,” a reference to 2013 efforts to cut income taxes in the General Assembly.
The Tillis mailer – sent to an undisclosed number of voters – is the the campaign’s first attack piece on a Republican rival, coming just as early voting starts and the campaign enters the final days.
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“We felt that it was important to point out what is basically a matter of public record on his property taxes,” said Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ campaign manager and spokesman.
Asked about the shift in direction from Hagan to his GOP rival, Shaw noted that Brannon had been attacking Tillis for months.
“We felt it was important to inform voters about who the Republican is best prepared to take on Kay Hagan in November,” he said, declining to say how much money the campaign spent on the mailer or how many were sent.
Brannon campaign manager Reilly O’Neal said the attack is a sign of weakness.
“It’s unfortunate to see Mr. Tillis resort to false attacks to distract voters from his counterfeit conservative record,” he said in a statement. “This is typical of career politicians when they get desperate. Conservatives know Mr. Tillis doesn’t stand for their values and this is a clear sign he knows he’s losing the argument.”
The mailer’s language against Brannon also a little misleading, Brannon’s camp said. Also, Tillis paid his taxes after the due date.
Despite the mailer saying Brannon “has failed” to pay his taxes, he did, albeit late. It even cites a wral.com report about Brannon paying his $8,779 tax bill on his Cary home only after being questioned by a reporter in February. The tax bill was due Sept. 1.
It’s not entirely uncommon to pay taxes past the typical September date because of the grace period before interest begins to accumulate until January.
Tillis didn’t pay his 2013 taxes on three properties until Jan. 6, four months after they were due and the day before interest charges were schedule to begin, Mecklenburg property records show.
As for Tillis’ past-due payment, Shaw said it was mailed within the grace period. He said it doesn’t compare to Brannon, who had to be reminded by a reporter and paid after the grace period. “(Tillis’) taxes are paid up and current,” he said.
Both Tillis and Brannon were past the due date more than a dozen times on tax bills for their respective properties in the last decade, according to county records.